We focus on solving problems that keep other engineers awake at night. Head scratchers. Challenges that can only be resolved by approaches as unique as the problems themselves. These kinds of projects grab our attention and don’t let go. They motivate us to exceed expectations, provide a sense of purpose, and foster relationships that endure.
We often tell people that if they can find another engineer to do their work — then they should. We seek out projects that occupy the dusty corners of infrastructure engineering; the places where common solutions fear to tread. Our best projects have oddball problems that nobody else knows what to do with. And we tackle those problems using a combination of old-school rigor and innovation.
Over the past decade, we’ve taught ourselves how to break these problems down into bite-sized chunks, develop workable solutions, and deploy the resources needed to see our designs through to completion.
We tackle unusual problems by operating under a distinct set of principles.
- We seek uncommon, complex, and multidisciplinary problems to solve. And we do mean seek. We hang out with marine contractors, ground improvement specialists, and oil-and-gas operators who have the most challenging problems and the most at risk. We invest in tools and training that conventional firms would probably never use. Our investment in relationships and training help us quickly mobilize the right resources to tackle the most difficult problems.
- It’s not a useful design if you can’t build it. We make sure that our solution can be implemented using the equipment, materials, and labor available at the site. Sometimes that means we don’t get to design the first concept that we develop, but we always design a solution that can be built.
- We adapt our solutions as site conditions change. Crane breaks down? Groundwater level higher than expected? Can’t get pipe made out of X70 steel? We’ve adapted our designs to these and countless other unexpected developments and kept our projects moving toward completion.
- We manage risk by embracing it. It’s ineffective and disingenuous to attempt using tender document language to shove project risk onto a contractor. Risk should be allocated to the party best equipped to mitigate it, actually perform the work, and make the risk less significant. We collect extra data, reduce uncertainty, collaborate to maintain control over procedures, and run QC programs that, combined properly, make the risk go away. We mitigate tons and tons of risk by performing the difficult work needed to take it out of the project.
- We leverage our industry’s best thinking. We unashamedly stand on the shoulders of giants. Terzaghi, Peck, Casagrande, Seed, Meyerhof, Goble, Poulos, Reese, Duncan. These engineers solved monumental problems and then wrote down how they did it. We studied their solutions, keep a sharp eye out for similarities, and engineer with vigor when the solutions match up. Presto! Problem solved. Our best solutions often leverage what the geniuses before us have already accomplished.
- We make drawings. We communicate using the most effective tools at our disposal. Every other discipline draws their solutions because it’s the most effective way to convey dense technical information. We think that geotechnical engineers should embrace the example set by our peers and collaborators. Sure, we write a report now and then when it suits our clients’ needs. But we also draw.
- We show up ready to work. And by ready we mean properly trained, properly briefed, and properly equipped. Construction site safety is increasingly more important. And we’re fully in support. We show up at your site already carrying the PPE that your program requires. And if we’re there on the leading edge of the job and you’ve not yet stood up your program, we’re prepared to bring our own program that’ll pass muster with your in-house safety professionals.
- Work should be fun. We spend a lot of time at it. Sometimes we travel long distances over rough terrain just to stand in the rain all day. Every one of our projects includes an element of adversity. While our idea of fun might be somewhat uncommon, work performed with a great cohort, that achieves something important, and offers opportunities to stretch our thinking and be recognized for cleverness, is enough to keep us interested day after day.
Misaligned Project Types
Even among clients we work with all the time, there are some types of projects that should be handled by another firm. While we are capable of taking care of a broad range of needs, your resources might be best utilized assigning the following projects to a more compatible firm.
- Site characterization: Drilling holes and writing reports about what you found is the backbone of our industry. We’ve done our fair share of it. We’ve learned that we serve our clients best when others take on those assignments. And when we need more data, we almost always bring on a collaborator who performs this particular service to supplement our team.
- Compaction testing: Really, any kind of purely testing engagement. We work with the best testing labs, PDA engineers, and CSL technicians in the world. We’re glad to introduce you.
- Light things: Every project needs a good foundation, and we can probably introduce you to a geotechnical engineer whose practice is a perfect match for your commercial development project. The most cost-effective solution is likely to work with a nearby firm that is already familiar with local practices and permit application requirements.
We’ve benefitted from working with extraordinary mentors over the years. We get more knowledgeable with every engagement and (hopefully) wiser with each problem solved. As a result, our thinking about geotechnical engineering has coalesced into our current core principles. Should they change, it’ll be because of the experiences we collect solving the hardest problems with the best group of clients on earth.